When I was a kid, my mother made fish once a week, usually on Thursday nights. I hated it. No matter what fish she made or how she prepared it (she baked and broiled, fried and poached and even made fish cakes) I refused to eat it. Even the smell as she cooked it made me kind of sick to my stomach. On Thursdays, I often feigned illness to avoid going downstairs, but my mother caught on and we developed a detente of sorts — I would take one bite and if I really didn’t like it, I could have my bowl of Cheerios.
Things got worse in the summertime. My dad was an enthusiastic summertime fisherman. He would go out on a boat with friends before dawn and return in the afternoon, triumphant, with a full cooler of slippery slimy big fish, usually flounder. He would clean the fish in the backyard, and I would escape to the very top of the street (we lived in the last house at the bottom of the street) to a friend’s house, as far away as I was allowed to go alone. When I came home, the freezer would be filled with packages wrapped in brown freezer paper, and I would count the packages to figure out how many times I would have to endure the agony of a fish dinner.
Well, what can I say? I grew up. I now prefer fish to any other kind of protein, and I introduced my kids to fish at a very young age so they would not follow in my footsteps. Surprise! They all loved fish and still do, as do my grandchildren. My son-in-law is a different story, but we are working on him!
For decades I bought our fish at an old-fashioned fish market; the same one my grandmother and then mother used for their fish. Sadly, they closed after almost 100 years in business. But I have found other reliable places to get the wild caught, in season, fish that my family loves.
Fish is low-fat and low-calorie. It is one of the healthiest protein sources in the food chain.
Crispy Crusted Halibut with Dill Horseradish Sauce (Dairy)
Halibut is a delicious, icy, cold-water fish that is best fresh caught but can deal well with being frozen.
4 halibut fillets, about 6 ounces each
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
3 tsp. white or red horseradish
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp. fresh dill, minced
Pinch black pepper
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup buttermilk or skim milk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix the sour cream, horseradish, dill, lemon juice, paprika and pepper in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese and paprika in a small bowl. Spread the mixture on a dinner plate.
Rinse the fish and pat dry. Place the milk in a small bowl. Dip the fish in the milk, then place on the crumbs. Turn to coat both sides. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray, and place the fish fillets inside. Bake until the fish is opaque, about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Fish should be browned, but not burned.
Serve with the dill sauce. Serves 4.
Broiled Salmon with Chive and Spring Onion ‘Butter’ Sauce (Dairy)
Wild caught salmon is richly flavored and a bit stronger in taste than farm-raised salmon. It is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and very heart healthy. If you must buy farm-raised, try to get Norwegian farm-raised and the fish are raised in pens in the ocean.
Four 6-ounce salmon fillets or steaks
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup butter or trans-fat free margarine, very cold and cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp. each of minced fresh chives, basil (dried is OK) and grated orange zest (orange part only)
Tiny pinch salt
Tiny pinch cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 Tbsp. minced spring onions or scallions
Brush the fillets with oil and grill, broil or pan-fry until cooked through.
While the fish is cooking, place the vinegar, spring onions and wine in a non-reactive saucepan (stainless steel or tempered glass is fine), but don’t use aluminum. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the herbs and zest. Simmer to reduce liquid to a little more than a few tablespoons. Turn off the heat and slowly whisk in the butter, a piece at a time. The sauce will thicken.
Serve over the fish. Serves 4.
Grilled Mahi Mahi with Tomato Corn Salsa (Pareve)
Mahi Mahi fish are often called dolphin fish (NOT related to Flipper!) They are native to warm waters in Florida and live on the relative surface, so they are lower in mercury than deeper diving fish.
3 large fresh fully ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced small
Half a ripe avocado, diced small
Juice of half a lime
3 scallions, diced
1 large or 2 small ears of sweet corn, yellow and white or all white
Several fresh basil leaves rolled and cut into slivers
3 to 4 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
3 to 4 saffron threads
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 to 6 mahi mahi fillets, about 6 ounces each
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small, non-reactive bowl, mix all the salsa ingredients gently to avoid mashing the avocado. Adjust seasonings. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Rinse the fish and pat dry. Brush on the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill, broil or pan-fry until just opaque. Top with salsa and serve with a fragrant rice such as jasmine or basmati.
Tri-Colored Peppered Salmon with Peapods, Ginger, and Sesame Seeds (Pareve or Dairy)
This is a delicious spicy salmon that has a hint of sweetness and ginger beneath the three colors of ground pepper. The sweet peapods are a delicious complimentary flavor.
4 salmon fillets, about 6 to 8 ounces each, skin removed
3/4 to 1 pound snow peapods
2 Tbsp. finely ground multi-colored peppercorns (I like pink, white and black)
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 bunch scallions, cut into quarter-inch pieces, white and green parts
2 tsp. brown sugar
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 tsp.)
1/3 cup sherry wine
2 to 3 Tbsp. tamari, soy or low-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt and stir. Add the peapods and blanch for about one minute, or until they turn bright green. Remove to a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Sprinkle the ground peppers on both sides of the fish fillets. Pat gently to help the pepper stick.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oils. Sprinkle the brown sugar over one side of the fish and place that side down into the pan. Cook on each side for about 4 minutes, turning only once.
Place a piece of fish on each plate and return the pan to the heat. Turn up the flame to medium high and add the scallions and ginger. Mix for about 15 seconds and add the peapods. Stir for about 30 seconds. Add the sherry, tamari or soy, and rice wine vinegar; boil for about 1 minute or until the liquid reduces by about one third. Place the peapods around the fish on each plate and serve. Drizzle the liquid over the peapods.
Garnish with Sesame Seeds. Serves 4.
Walnut Encrusted Salmon with Apricot Sauce (Dairy)
This also works well with halibut or whole, small flounders or trout.
4 salmon fillets, skinned, about 6 ounces each
1 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup apricot nectar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, more to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1-1/2 cups walnuts finely chopped
2 to 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional: Substitute toasted pecans for the walnuts
Place the chopped walnuts in a large bowl. Rinse and dry the salmon and brush each side lightly with olive oil. Dredge the fish in the chopped nuts, coating on both sides. Place on a lightly greased pan and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
Meanwhile, mix the apricot preserves, nectar, red pepper and ginger in a small saucepan. Heat to a simmer and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Drizzle over the cooked fish. Pass the extra sauce with the fish. Serves 4.
Filet of Sole or Flounder Parmesan (Dairy)
Filet of Sole is a delicious cold water fish. It is mild and sweet, making it a favorite of kids. Flounder is a close relative, another flatfish, that is best wild caught and fresh. A delicious dish inspired by my husband’s favorite meal at a little restaurant, long gone, near Columbia University. You can use your favorite jarred marinara sauce for this to save time.
8 flounder or sole fillets about 3-4 ounces each
1 cup flour
2 extra-large eggs
2 cups breadcrumbs, seasoned or plain
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for pan frying
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (3 oz.) tomato paste
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 to 3 cloves garlic, more if you like
1 to 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Oregano, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Heat a medium saucepan. Add the olive oil and the diced onions; sauté until barely golden, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and the mushrooms, and sauté until the mushrooms release their liquid.
Add the tomatoes and mix well. Bring to a simmer. Add the tomato paste and mix to blend. Season, partially cover, and let simmer for 30-45 minutes, Stir often.
Place the flour in a large flat bowl and add the onion powder, salt and pepper. In another bowl, beat the eggs until well blended.
Place the breadcrumbs in a third bowl. Rinse the fish and pat dry. Dredge the fish in the flour, then the eggs and then in the breadcrumbs. Place on a piece of parchment or aluminum on the counter.
Heat a large skillet. Add a tablespoon or two of oil, and swirl the pan. Add the fish and pan fry until golden. Gently flip the fish and cook another minute. Place the fish, side by side, on a 9-by-13 Pyrex-type pan and set aside. Repeat until the fish is cooked.
Check the sauce and adjust seasonings. Pour the sauce over the fish in a swath across the center of the pieces so that the ends are exposed. Top the sauce with the mozzarella cheese. Place in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.
About halfway through, sprinkle the grated Parmesan on top. Bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve over your favorite pasta. Serves 4 to 6.